Sunday, August 26, 2007


A girl who was a thinly veiled version of the author walked into her favorite coffee shop and sat down at a table in the corner by the window, thereby indicating both her desire for solitude and her interest in the world outside. She took out of her bag a book, the title of which expressed a great many things about her personality--her intellectuality, her sense of humor, her ability to grasp the great many profundities of the human experience. The bookmark she pulled from somewhere near the middle of the novel was handmade, probably by the girl herself; it was a sweetly ironic collage of images and text from beauty magazines and celebrity rags.

She ordered a cup of tea and read her book. Sometimes other customers, especially young men, would look over in her direction; this isn't surprising as she was very pretty in an unglamorous yet somehow striking way. Mostly she just kept reading her book, but sometimes she would notice their glances and would smile to herself as if she knew something they didn't, or perhaps just because the attention pleased her. The attention did please her, but it is also true that she knew something they didn't.

She knew a great many things they didn't, in fact, like what it's like to stand at Niagara Falls in the middle of January with ice blowing in your face, and how fresh pineapple tastes in the morning on the banks of the river Kwai, and that at 3am, from the interstate bus, the street lights of distant rural roads look like stars or like the lights of ships on a vast, dark ocean, and other mysteries of travel and perspective. She knew mysteries of love and heartache, as well, the kind of mysteries whose answer change every time the question is asked, as it is asked in countless pop songs, rock songs, folk songs, operas.

She only got through a few chapters of the book; the people on bikes outside were too distracting and her tea had gotten cold. Humming a song that exactly captured her mood, she put away her book, stood, and exited the shop. She walked home, stopping every now and then to take a photo of some happy accident that reminded her of how wonderful the randomness of life can be.

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